There was a time when I thought Lost was the best show on television. It was touching and shocking and thrilling and mysterious. And it was dang good. It was also fun to dig around after the episode to discover hidden clues as to what actually happened. I loved reading Doc Jensen's articles on EW.com that attempted to recap and cast theories on what was happening. I would visit fan sites and review high-res pictures of confusing shots like the inside of the Hatch and the Orientation Film. It was fun.
In the second season, the show seemed to lose its way a bit with the introduction (and ultimate obliteration) of the tail section. In fact, I went so far as to say that Lost had ceded its title of "Best Show on TV" to Heroes - then in its super first season. But, as Heroes lost its mojo in unforgivably tanking the season finale (never to regain it), Lost righted its ship. There were moments where it was hard for me to stomach the violence in Lost, or the casual approach to the lives of characters. I also began to be troubled by the way that Lost's producers would build up a big mystery, only to cast it aside in favor of a new reveal.
This last issue has actually become a very troubling habit. The Lost seascape is littered with discarded stories that once seemed very important, but then just got flung away like a used vomit bag (The Numbers, Dharma, Desmond). The fans put a great deal of time discussing things and trying to tie things together, only to see all their work nullified as a new season lurched forward. Characters were just randomly and cruelly killed off before their lines were fully filled out (Rousseau, Mr. Happy, Eko, Libby). And now, this last year, we have been promised answers! Reveal! Explanations! Only, the answers are now about questions that we never even asked. Or they are about storylines that just were brought up last season. The whole Jacob/Man in Black battle wasn't even brought up until the Season Finale of Season Five. Is it really the best time to be introducing a new mystery - in the second to last chapter?
What has happened is that I have actually begun dreading Tuesday nights. Watching Lost stresses me out so badly. "So quit watching it, you dimwit!" I have invested too much time watching and analyzing to quit now. I keep hoping that by May, I will actually figure out all of what happened in the show. So I plod on through. It is a weird feeling - I feel like I HAVE to watch the show, just to get a sense of completion. It is too far into the game to bail.
There still are some great performances on Lost. The shows are still very good. I thought "The Substitute" a couple of weeks ago was a great episode. Terry O'Quinn (Locke) and Michael Emerson (Ben) are just amazing actors - their stories always pull me in. And surprisingly, Josh Holloway's Sawyer has gone from my least favorite character to my favorite (now that they got rid of Elizabeth Mitchell's Juliet). I think from time to time I see the flashes of brilliance that once was the hallmark of Lost. And I'm sure tonight's Ben-centric episode will be great. But, I feel like the producers are so intent on keeping the mystery alive and building towards this huge revelation, that they actually have sacrificed some of what made the show so good. At the beginning, it was about how would these seemingly random people survive on a bizarre island after a tragedy. It was about the characters. Now, though, it is about the mystery, the Island. The characters are not trying to survive or escape. They already got away and a bunch of them came back! The Island is the main character.
The problem is, I wouldn't have watched a show about an Island. Or its guardians or secrets. I was drawn in by the people. They were such powerful individuals with incredible stories. It would be like Star Trek making a show where they focused on the ship. "It's the touching tale of The Enterprise and its nacelles." Uh, no. It has actually gotten to the point where I don't even care what happens to the characters on Lost any more. I should have been devastated by the turn Sayid took last week. But, when the show ended, I just kind of was numb by all the violence. I didn't even care. I just wanted the show to end. That is a BAD sign. I really just want the show to end so I don't feel like I have to watch it any more.
Mysteries are good. Shows need things to string along through their seasons for continuity and history. I love seeing things referenced from seasons past in shows like How I Met Your Mother or Big Bang Theory. It cracks me up. And I appreciate mystery in a show. But there has to be an ending point. There has to be some payoff for the time invested. The producers of the show have actually said that they don't plan on answering all of our questions. What? They weren't OUR questions. They were THEIR questions that they led us to ask. And now they aren't going to answer them? I don't appreciate that.
I have gotten to the point where I look forward to Tuesday nights again. But it isn't because of Lost. It is because of USA's White Collar. And I like Monday because of ABC's Castle. And Wednesday for USA's Psych. All three of those shows have mysteries and history and things to figure out over time. But they also all have great characters, who are still the main focus of the show. Castle hasn't made it where the mystery is the point of the show. The mystery is laid out so that Castle, Beckett, and the cops figure it out. The same with Psych. White Collar has some "big story" mysteries that float through - but not at the expense of the tremendous interplay between the characters. (USA's Royal Pains is another show in that vein.) To most "critics," those four shows pale in comparison to the deepness and richness of Lost. They aren't on par with the intricate construction of Lost. At this point, though, I am quite content with the cozy stories presented by those shows - rather than the ornate, confusing, and empty mausoleum that is The Island.